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AL East: Baltimore Chop
From the mid-1960s through the mid-1980s, the Baltimore Orioles were the model organization in baseball. Baltimore built their teams around the concepts of great pitching, stellar fielding and the three-run home run and won championships in 1966, 1970 and 1983. In fact, the O's had the best record of any team during the '60s and the '70s.
Earl Weaver, who steadily worked his way through the minor leagues, managed the team for most of this run, and is a Hall-of-Famer. The Orioles developed talents such as Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson, Paul Blair, Mark Belanger, Jim Palmer, and, later, Bobby Grich, Don Baylor and Eddie Murray. They played baseball the right way, the "Oriole Way," and thrived in spite of the fact that other teams spent more once the free agency era began.
The Orioles' system began to corrode during the Cal Ripken years. By the mid-90s, they had become another version of The Best Team Money Can Buy, featuring stars like Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Bonilla. They were competitive for a few seasons and then collapsed -- the Orioles have finished as high as third in the American League East just once since 1997.
I grew up in the '70s and '80s and always counted on the Orioles being a force, much like the Atlanta Braves have been for the better part of the past 20 years in the National League. It wasn't that I necessarily liked them, but they were dependable, respectable. But the old Orioles are long-gone, and that is one of the running disappointments in the game. Now, each season presents yet another mediocrity.
The O's have lost eight straight games, more than a third of the way to the 21 consecutive games they lost in 1988. Sam Perlozzo reportedly is being fired today, but the organization's troubles run deeper than its manager. For the moment, Kevin Millar called a players-only team meeting to try and unite the club.
According to Roch Kubatko in the Baltimore Sun:
Always a favorite of the media for his accessibility and one-liners, Millar vented when he noticed a few reporters joking around while players ate dinner in silence and dressed at their lockers.
The fun and games continue this week for the Orioles on the West Coast. They have today off, then face Jake Peavy on Tuesday night in San Diego.
"Larry was that bridge for us," said [assistant managing editor/sports for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Garry D] Howard. "He was the bridge for this generation. He helped father this whole generation. I think you could trace it back to Larry and then to a Sam Lacy.
Dan Shaughnessy remembers his colleague. For more on Whiteside's story, pick up Howard Bryant's compelling book about racism and Boston sports Shut Out.
Labels: AL East
posted by SI.com | View comments |
Hey Alex, if you want those of us West Coasters to quit complaining about East Coast bias, it might help if you could get the spelling of arguably the NL's best pitcher this season correct. It's not Peavey, it's Peavy. Might be nice if you paid attention to San Diego baseball once in awhile.
To the above - why, if nobody else does?
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